Wow, new board! That's weird, like everything suddenly shifted. Sorry, that's site talk. But wow!
Anyway, I went to Machu Picchu tonight with a friend for some Peruvian chow, and we were both very pleased. We had (I'm reading from the takeout menu): Choclo Peruano con queso -- big-ass corn on the cob with cheese chunks; Fish Ceviche; and I *believe* we ordered the Seco de Carne a la Nortena -- translated on the menu as "juicy steak bits cooked with cilantro sauce and chicha de jara", with rice and beans. What actually came out were two meaty pieces of short ribs that may have been cured a bit, or maybe just cooked in a very salty broth. The sauce was delicious, although I'd be hard-pressed to detect cilantro in there -- it was more like an intense gravy. The portion of meat was maybe a little small -- a third chunk of short rib would have been great, but it was delicious -- most of the visible fat cooked out, firm but not tough texture, intensely beefy without the funky bone-taste that long-cooked short rib sometimes has. Good stuff.
The corn was, well, weird but good. Enormous kernels still on the cob, each maybe a half-inch across, with a bland starchy texture and taste --this was helped enormously by eating it with the firm salty chunks of cheese and a bit of the really excellent spicy green sauce that they put on the table when you sit down. (There's also an even spicier red sauce that was good but mostly just hot-tasting; I preferred the flavor of the green stuff.)
The ceviche was excellent -- firm chunks of white fish (we couldn't figure out what kind) in a lemony marinade with very fine flecks of chili peppers, accompanied by lime-cured onions, corn nuts (I'm sure there's a more accurate peruvian word, but come on, they're corn nuts!), and some more of those big-ass kernels of corn, this time off the cob, a chunk of boiled potato and of boiled sweet potato.
My only other experience with peruvian food is at Rincon Limeno (which I love), and this was very close to that level. The ceviche was a little different -- all the accompaniments were separated; while at RL they are all tossed together, with bigger shreds of chili, but the fish is fresh and perfectly marinated at both places.
I also tried a chicha morada (sweet purple corn drink) which I actually preferred to RL's -- this one was a little less sweet and more spiced.
The service was incredibly sweet but also incredibly overwhelmed -- there was just one guy working all the tables, which had to be an impossible task as the restaurant filled up. He was very friendly and helpful throughout, though -- just a little hard to flag down for a check at the end. Bill for all the above, with two glasses of wine, was about $45 before tip. In terms of quality, I'd call it pretty much a toss-up with Rincon Limeno, although RL definitely runs a bit more smoothly.
Ok, first of all, Peruvian food is not swimsuit season food. Let's get that straight. Starchy corn, potatoes, cheese, corn nuts... But I was game to try this place when MichealB suggested it and I'm so glad we did. Everything was delicious and it was so reasonable that I'll certainly be back, in cooler weather. I was really surprised at how busy the place was -- I've only been there during the previous salvadoran taco incarnation and it always seemed like a doomed locale. For these guys sakes, I hope not.
I loved the beef stew, although I didn't detect cilantro in the rich meaty gravy either. What I really LOVED was the beans served with that plate -- the beans weren't smooth like refritos, but instead were a little chunky, sort of pinkish, and delicous with the salty meaty gravy spooned over. That plate was big enough for two though I would have liked a little more beef as well.
The ceviche was GREAT. A hefty serving of marinated fish, as described above. Perfectly lemony, not especially hot, but with the addition of the red sauce it was ideal.
Argentinian malbec at $6 for a big old glass made the cheap and cheerful experience even more so. Definitely a chowhound spot in the heart of Union Square. Yum.